WE CHOSE NCL because of its itinerary to and from Alaska. They advertised they cruised the Inside Passage from Seattle to Alaska and back by the same route. This made having a balcony cabin very attractive. Unfortunately, on the return trip they went out to sea, no land in sight for 24 hours and the water was rougher. When we inquired why the change, no one could or would give us an answer.
FREESTYLE DINING on NCL is the pits. They advertised 7 dining rooms, but only 3 of them were included in your cruise price! The other 4 were specialty restaurants that cost anywhere from $15 more per person on top of your "all inclusive" cruise price. Of the 3 dining rooms remaining that were available to you, one was a very over crowded cafeteria (serve yourself and try to find a table), while the other 2 were very nice sit down and be served dining rooms (no reservations allowed, wait in the hallway for a table) but the menu at both restaurants was exacting the same....limited choices. As for the food selection, the chef was obviously catering to the Asianappetite and not versed in other American styles (used Marinara sauce for salsa). Very limited 'free' drink selection, only coffee, tea, iced tea, water and milk offered all day. And if you wanted coffee at one of the outdoor bar areas - they charged you $1.50! All sodas, alcoholic drinks and juices were extra (juice offered free only at breakfast time).
THE SHIP was very clean and well maintained, the cabin attendants and waiters/waitresses were very efficient and friendly, but the cocktail/bar waiters were very busy pushing you to buy drinks all the time.
THE CABINS were well designed but the beds were very hard and uncomfortable. The balcony in our room was delightfully roomy - 2 people could easily sit in chairs and enjoy the view.
THE SHIPBOARD ENTERTAINMENT left a lot to be desired. The production company was loud and not very entertaining. The best entertainment came on 'Ship Crew Talent Night'. I think the 'crew' had more variety of talent than their 'production' company. OVERALL, I would not recommend NCL to any of my friends or family because of the food and drink situation. We certainly did not expect to have to line up in the hall to wait to eat every night. Maybe if the specialty restaurants were opened up and included, the situation would have been better.
This was our 8th cruise and we certainly enjoyed this trip. Relatives met us in Seattle and we had a wonderful dinner on the waterfront Friday night. Saturday they took us to Pike's Place Market and we bought a beautiful bouquet to put in the cabin of the ship. The cabin steward placed the bouquet in a vase while we were at lunch after boarding the ship. Very good system of checking luggage and boarding the ship. Our balcony cabin on the 9th deck was great. It was comfortable and attractive. The balconies are private and really the thing to have on an Alaska cruise.
We walked around Ketchikan and saw Creek St., went up the funicular to a lodge, walked down to the fish hatchery and also saw King Salmon waiting to spawn in a river. This was all an easy walk. In Juneau we took the $5 bus, which is right at the cruise ship dock, to Mendenhall Glacier and took pictures there and walked around the Visitor's Center. In Skagway we took our only tour in order to ride the narrow gauge railroad into the mountains. Wehad a bus ride back to Liarsville with panning for gold and then back to the ship. Price Rubert was the only day it started to drizzle while we were out so we only went to some stores near the ship. That town did not look very appealing and I would have probably liked another destination in it's place. When we arrived in Seattle getting off the ship was very organized and easy.
The food was really good in the two restaurants and buffet that were included in the fare. We did not try any of the pay restaurants. We had a table for two almost every night at a window. With rib lamb chops, lobster tail, filet mignon, etc. we had no complaints. Plenty of entertainment on board. A big casino. We would recommend this cruise to anyone.
This was our third cruise, each of which has been on a different line. For reasons outlined below, we were the least satisfied with NCL.
Most of our disappointment has to do not with any individual staff, department or destination, but with what seem to be general policies dreamed up by NCL in order to squeeze every last dime out of its captives, er, I mean, passengers.
FREESTYLE DINING: They should more accurately call this "freeforall dining." What a mess! We actually booked this line to try the "eat what you want, when you want, where you want" idea on any of the nine restaurants onboard. In actuality, only two of the nice dining rooms are available without a "surcharge" of $15-$30 pp. Those are generally so crowded that a long wait for a table is a nightly task, and there is nowhere to wait. We saw many elderly passengers and those with children in great distress because there wasn't so much as a chair to be had. Instead, people sat all up and down the nearby stairwell. Not fun, especially on a "formal" night. We ate in the "specialty" restaurants fortwo nights, shelling out an extra $75 or so, just to avoid this (which is no doubt NCL's intention). As for the food, I would only call it average and not terribly creative. No regional fare, and we thought cruising Alaskan waters might be good for some fresh King Crab or other Northwestern cuisine.
"NO PERSONAL ALCOHOL" -- We found out about this the hard way, after our luggage was confiscated after embarkation. Our crime? We had brought a bottle of champagne in our suitcase to celebrate our departure on our private balcony. There was a cryptic note on our cabin door telling us to come to something called the "Brig Conference Room" to claim our luggage between 3-5 p.m. When we arrived there, the bar manager sternly informed us that no alcohol, either purchased ashore or in the duty free shops on board, is allowed in the cabins. NCL has decided to use the security screening machines at the embarkation points to enforce this ridiculous policy. Clearly, the lack of any refrigeration in the cabins, and this rule, which we have not encountered on any other cruise line, is intended to boost onboard liquor sales. Another consequence of this mishap was that we did not have our bags delivered to our room until three full hours after embarking.
ROUTES/TIME IN PORT -- It was only after booking that we made the rather sad discovery that the amount of time allowed in each port was generally too short. If you chose a long shore excursion, there was no time to explore the town (we found this especially true in Scagway, where we booked an independent excursion). We met a family member in Juneau at 8 a.m., and had to be back on the boat by 1:30 p.m! We managed to cram in a lot of sightseeing with him (out on his boat whale watching and a trip to Mendenhall Glacier), but it was a pretty rushed affair all around. And why? Well, we eventually figured it out. There is a very large casino onboard the Spirit, and the sooner we were in international waters, the sooner it could open.
To be fair, I should say we were most impressed by the captain's skill in getting such a large ship up the Tracy Arm and right up near the face of Sawyer Glacier -- that was an onboard highlight for us.
Our cabin stewards were delightful fellows; they even saved me a trip to the ship's doctor by bringing me ice and helping me tend to a twisted ankle.
The bottom line -- I'd go to Alaska again, and we plan to in the near future. We will not, however, be using NCL for that trip or any other.
I will begin this review by saying I did not have the same experience as 99% of my fellow passengers. I never had dinner in the main dining room (ate at 2 specialty restaurants and the rest of the time Maxi served us in our suite!), never went to a show (we were too busy partying with our fellow suitemates!), did not have a spa experience (went for a stone massage, they did not have slippers and expected me to walk around barefooted...said NO THANKS), did not have ONE drink in any bar as I was too busy drinking wine with my fellow suite mates! That being said:
Check-in: We were whisked to the nearest check-in, processed and on our way in less than 10 minutes. We found our fellow cruisemates and were told about a suite VIP lounge. NCL did not inform us of this. At 11:30 AM the consierge escorted us onto the ship. From there we were left to fend for ourselves in finding our rooms.
If I had paid "full price" for our suite I would have been VERY upset (suite 10001)! We did NOT havea 1/2 bath as advertised. I also believe (am not certain) that the suite next to the other end unit did not either. Ours was quite a bit smaller than the end unit and did not have a separate bar either. Another thing, if we had not become REALLY good friends with 10002 we would have had a major issue. The walls were paper thin and there is actually a tiny area in one corner of the sitting area that you can see into the next suite; a good laugh to be sure between friends, however a big shock to others
Suite perks are champagne upon arrival and daily canapes. The consierge COULD make your experience great. On past cruises our fellow suitemates informed us that their consierge roped off seats for them in the stage balcony, met them after shore excursions, was constantly checking to see if she/he could be of assistance. We found ours, Simone, to be of NO help whatsoever. She made 2 initial specialty restaurant reservations for us and two other requests were met with resounding NO's. The rest is totally the butler. Maxi, our butler, was absolutely the best. He served us every course just like you would have in the restaurant. Soup, then taken away, salad, taken away etc. He poured our wine, he did anything and everything for us. We had his personal pager and whenever we wanted anything we paged him. But not just that, he became our FRIEND. His attitude was, "I am here to make you feel pampered and special." On the other hand, the butler at the other end of the hall, from everything that was said to me, had no personality and did little to enhance the suite experience.
I think we had an amazing weather week. Sunday (sea day) was terrible; rainy, cold, and the sea was rough. Our three port days were incredible: low seventies maybe even eighty. The forest fires however made the visibility very hazy. I would love to go back just to REALLY see what it is like. BUT, nothing will measure up to this past experience. Maybe a land/sea tour. Or a one way not round trip. The only times I was cold was up on the glacier (the crazy woman that took us to the helicopter said it was only 10 degrees colder so I left a lot of my layers behind!!), and when the ship was going through the ice and up to the glacier. But I had on earmuffs, gloves, jeans, wind pants, a sweater, fleece jacket, and my Gortex raincoat. AND...Maxi served us hot French onion soup on the balcony while we snapped photos and cried out of sheer amazement. I NEVER wanted to go to AK. I am a warm weather nut. I only said yes because it was my daughter. We don't spend a lot of time together and I knew this would be special. God truly blessed our experience. In Juneau, while at the pier, I walked out on our balcony and a bald eagle was perched on a piling. He proceeded to put on a show of diving, retrieving a fish, flying back to his piling...this went on for several hours. Bald eagles are very common in AK but to have your "own" was special. On our whale watching excursion we had two whales breach (which is NOT common). I had seen this in Hawaii, but my daughter had not. The Misty Fiords Island Wings seaplane...wow, wow, wow. Michelle is an amazing pilot; landing in a glacier pool high in the mountains; all I can say is...incredible. We saw mountain goats and more eagles. The highlight of course was the helicopter/dogsledding in Skagway. My breath was taken away so many times. A very "religious" helicopter ride..regardless of your faith. My daughter begged me to do this as I had no desire to be in a helicopter (went to Hawaii 5 times and NEVER got on one) or on a dogsled. AND...VERY EXPENSIVE. I can now say it was worth every penny. I won't repeat my comments on the White Pass Railway, suffice to say it was a terrible experience.
Many people have asked about what to pack. I took NO formal wear (never missed it), one black pants suit, 2 pair of jeans, 3 pair of cropped pants, two sweaters, lots of long sleeved tees, several short sleeved shirts, a pair of shorts, Gortex tennis shoes and rain jacket, and several fleece items. Binoculars ARE A MUST. They became a part of us. Also sunglasses of course. Sunscreen...believe it or not. I wore everything with the exception of a few tees and my bathing suit. Many people went in the hot tub and for some reason the days we were in port....THE POOL WAS CLOSED. Maybe, in all fairness I could have gone at the wrong times. I would say to you....don't miss it going to Alaska. Go prepared for rain and if it doesn't...at least you won't be miserable! Go expecting cold and if it isn't, relish the sun. Take time to develop new friendships. Our time was so enhanced by new relationships. Our trip would never have been the same without them. We spent many an enjoyable hour sharing the day's adventures, having a bottle of wine, and commenting on the passing scenery with people who had been strangers the week before.
My life has been greatly enriched by realizing my expectations were so limited, my horizons so low, and that I have much to learn and see. I can only envy all of you whose trip to Alaska is yet to come...
To see my Alaska pictures: http://community.webshots.com/user/10snut200
Food was good although I didn't like the free-style cruising as there was a mix of formal,informal, and casual at every dinner. The dining staffs in both the Garden Room and Windows were friendly and efficient. The menus, however, consisted of about five general menus repeated. We finally ate at Raffles to have some change. We enjoyed the fish and chips at Henry's Pub Lunch, and the menu at the Blue Lagoon. The entertainment in the Moulin Rouge was fine except that we were on a fourteen day cruise (two cruises listed as one) and the shows that were wonderful the first time were repeated.
Also the show band music that was supposed to accompany the performers was so loud that it made it next to impossible to hear the vocalists. The loud hip-hop, rap music in the pool area was ear numbing and it began at 7:00 a.m. so there was no respite from it. It was geared to younger passengers although 75% of the passengers were over the age of 50. There was no place to just sit outside and read unless you were lucky enough to find oneof the few chairs on the seventh deck. Overall, I would only recommend this cruise for persons under the age of 45.
Just got back from our cruise. As first timers, we had no expectations about what was good or bad so we went with the flow. Overall, we have no complaints. Service was excellent, people were attentive to our needs and the food and beverage quality was good. We heard other people complaining about silly things like chairs being too small, small rooms, etc, but my feeling was the it's a cruise, you're miles from nowhere so , really, what is there to complain about.
So, here's the Reader's Digest Review
Dining - we didn't eat in any specialty restaurants. Ate in Windows most nights, the Garden Room one night (same menu) Found food to be very good and the meals enjoyable once we found a group of ten that ate together every night. Waiters were great, especially Dean Walker, Nelson and Richard the maitre d. Most of the other meals we ate by the pool, in Raffles Buffet or room service. The Burgers in Blue Lagoon were way better than the grilled burgers in the Bier Garten. There is always food somewhere.
BEverages - We purchased the soda card, which worked out great for$34.04 each. Also, we are not big drinkers but do enjoy from time to time. NCL is diligent about confiscating liquor you are trying to bring on board. But, on the other hand, the liquor prices are very fair and there are lots of specials. If you drink beer, buy a bucket (buy five, get one free for $16.20). After that, wait for the domestic beer two for one specials and refill. You can take your drinks anywhere you want. Also, if you like mixed drinks or hi-balls, watch for the two for one specials. GAtoh from Indonesia is a great server and a very nice young man.
Entertainment- Really enjoyed Peter Sasso and Ross Bennett. Wes Epae and his impressions was great. The one time I saw the magician was good as well. As far as the show nights with the NCL singers and dancers, those shows were good but the balance between the singers and the background music wasn't good. Don't know if it was a sound problem or a singing problem. Still enjoyed the shows, though.
Shore Excursions - didn't take any NCL tours- went on our own with other people and saved piles of money. Negotiate with the cab drivers and don't give in. We got a two hour tour of Grenada for $10 each and a 3 1/2 tour of St. Lucia for $15 each.
Cleanliness - The ship was very clean and the room stewards were fabulous.
Cruise Directors Staff - They were a lot of fun, especially Ferdi (Superman), DJ O'Neill and cruise Director Adrian
Ports of call - found the stays in Barbados and Tortola too short (6 hours) Grenada still picking up the pieces from Hurricane Ivan. Shopping wan't very good in Barbados or Grenada, better in St. Lucia, Antigua and Tortola. Don't go anywhere in St. Lucia unless you want to spend the day driving narrow, windy and hilly roads that may make you sick. Very beautiful but you must decide if spending that much time in a van is worth it or just head straight to the beach.
Embarkations/debarkation - both went smoothly
Overall Impression - very good, nothing really to complain about, there are plans to "Americanize" this ship in the spring to eliminate some of the nagging issues from the transformation from the Superstar Leo. We talked to several passengers who were under the impression it was a brand new ship. I don't blame NCL for this, they should blame their travel agents.
Happy sailing - we're going to go again as soon as we can.
I just returned from a 9 day cruise on Norwegian Spirit. Out of 8 cruises I have taken, this has to be the most fantastic ship yet! It is just simply beautiful in decor, features and service. Never having sailed NCL before, I was not sure what to expect.
I have decided that all the negative reviews written about various cruise ships and cruise lines are mostly by people who are never happy and have nothing more in their lives than to nit pick and complain.
No matter where you go, no matter much you pay, nothing is ever going to be perfect. However, if the majority of your experiance is great, why make issue of minor shortcomings.
Over all the cruise industry is doing a great job keeping prices down and service up. Beleive me, I would rather spend 9 days with cruise employees as compared to spending 90 MINUTES with AIRLINE employees. The airlines need to take note.
I have yet to be on any cruise on any cruise line I didn't enjoy.
Again, my hats off to NCL and their staff for a great vacation! Those of you who havesomething to complain about, you need to look in a mirror.
This was our 6th cruise, 5 proir on NCL. Again NCL has came through with a fun, relaxing vacation. The Spirit is a moderate size ship, easy to get around and to navigate. The balcony cabins are slightly smaller than other ships, but there is plenty of room for two adults. The food was very good, with the alternative dining being much better.
The entertainment was good and the pubs were fun. I found this ship to be one of the better ship of NCL. The service was outstanding with their politness, and their aiming to please the customer. The 5 day Carribean run has only two ports, and both are sort of lame. The ship runs the show. We will most likly travel this ship again.
This was our first cruise with NCL, quite different than another cruiseline we used in the past. Our main complaint was the food. It was ok, but they only had pizza one night, whereas the other cruiseline had a 24 hr. pizzarria. The "free" restaurants were always crowded at night, so we would go to the Blue Lagoon, or the Bier Garden, where the menu was always the same, day after day. We ate at a specialty restaurant only once, paying a surcharge of $12.50 each.
Excursions: We took the Mendenhall Glacier & Wildlife Quest for $135.00 each. A ripoff. The wildlife quest spent too much time on the water, the whales were so far off you could barely see them. Only got to spend 1 hr. at Mendenhall Glacier. We found out later we could have spent $10.00 apiece to get to the glacier & take trails or just do whatever & spend all day there if we wanted for $10.00. Didn't have any time to go shopping in Juneau because the excursion took so long. Skagway was ok, but not much there. Prince Reupert, B.C., Canada was a wasteof time but we spent 7 hrs there! There was NOTHING there! We did enjoy the trip through Tracy Arm to Sawyer Glacier. That was awsome! Very cold though, bring gloves.
Overall, my husband & I decided if we go on another cruise, it will not be with NCL
This was our first cruise, Alaska, what can I say. Fabulous. Our Seattle cruise on the NCL Spirit was the second of the current season for this ship; it had originally been named Superstar Leo and cruised out of Hong Kong. Lets start at the beginning.
Day one: Embarkation wasn't overly stressful. A couple of lines and about an hour and you were onboard. Since we were very hungry, we dropped off our carryon bags in our room and headed for Raffles buffet. Really pretty good food, as good as any cafeteria food. Spent the remainder of the day exploring the ship. Decided not to dress for dinner and went back to the buffet.
Day two: Woke to the most beautiful scenery as we cruised the inside passage. Grabbed a cup of coffee from the Blue Lagoon Café and went on deck for a quick peek. Several porpoises were playing in our wake. Had a very good breakfast in Windows Restaurant then went on deck. We had a beautiful sunny day and spent the entire day on the sun deck just enjoying the view and meeting new folks. Decided not todress for dinner again and went again to the buffet.
Days three, four, five and six were good. Took our meals in Windows and The Garden Room Restaurants. Didn't eat in any of the specialty restaurants. Lunch was either a quick bite in the Blue Lagoon Café or Barbeque on the Raffles Terrace. Both quite good. We booked tours in Ketchikan (Lumberjack show was great), Juneau (Mendenhall Glacier), and Skagway (White Pass Railway). Wonderful to say the least. I don't even have words to describe Sawyer Glacier and the deep blue icebergs. You just have to be there. Didn't take a tour in Prince Rupert BC, just got off the ship and explored a little.
** All you veterans out there, just a little info. Right up the hill from the dock is a Canadian Legion Post. Figured it was like the American Legion so I stopped in looking for a cold beer and some good company. Found both. The folks were very friendly and treated me like they had known me all my life. If your cruise goes to Prince Rupert, stop in and say hello. You won't be disappointed.
Before I get to Disembarkation I should mention a couple of things. The food was, for the most part, really good and plentiful. Room service, though limited, was fast. The entertainment was outstanding. The stage shows were very good, the comedian Fred Klett and the magician Shawn Farquhar were a must see.
Now, just a couple of things not quite so good. Was really disappointed with our cabin stewards. Never saw them once. On at least three occasions we left our cabin, put out the make up cabin sign, came back and hour to hour and one half later and our cabin had not been touched. Some folks had really good stewards, just the luck of the draw I guess. Seemed as though some of the crew were going through growing pains, overall very nice though. The food in the main dining area, Windows, was good but always seemed a little too cool for my taste. I like my coffee and soup hot, just didn't happen. The Garden Room was smaller, and the food was a little warmer.
Day seven: Disembarkation was a snap. Since we were not leaving Seattle until the next day we went to a leisurely buffet breakfast then just hung out until our color was called. Went through customs and picked up our bags in a matter of minutes.
Now, just a quick review. 1- Food, overall very good. 2- Entertainment- very good. 3- Shore excursions, excellent. 4- Crew and staff- for the most part, very good. 5- Embarkation and Disembarkation- no problems. 6- Freestyle cruising- liked it a lot.
The only thing I regret is that with a cold weather cruise you can't spend as much time on deck, without bundling up a lot. I figured to give NCL another chance so we have booked a Western Caribbean cruise out of Houston for January 05. We'll just have to wait and see. If you have any specific questions please send me an email at email@example.com.